In this video, Rick Doblin recounts how ibogaine helped him to separate self-criticism from self-hatred and channel his perfectionism in a more constructive way.
“The ibogaine experience was one of the most important I ever had,” Doblin says.
Doblin, who has a PhD in public policy, is the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS. His ibogaine story dates back to the 1980s, when the federal government was in the process of banning MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy or molly, despite the promise it had shown in treating PTSD.
Doblin was suing to try to stop them, and he took an ibogaine trip with the goal of becoming a more effective political advocate. “A lot of it is dealing with your own shadows and not projecting out that the people that you’re fighting are 100 percent your enemies,” he recalls in the video, “that there’s some parts of them that maybe you can reach.”
Ibogaine is a psychedelic substance that comes from a West African shrub and is most notable for its success in treating addictions, particularly of opiates. Leo Zeff, the leader of an underground psychotherapy movement, administered a mix of LSD and ibogaine to the MAPS leader in a house overlooking the San Francisco Bay.
The LSD kicked in first. “I went through a lot of surrendering, challenging things with the LSD. But more or less opening and pleasant,” Doblin says. As it began to wear off, the ibogaine started taking over.
First, he thought of death. “If you’re aware of death, that will help you appreciate life,” he says. “Not scared of it or paralyzed by it, just fully aware that every moment is precious and it’s limited.”
Then, he says his mind turned to his own self-perfectionism. As he felt how he allowed his self-criticism turn to self-hatred, he began to vomit.
“I felt that I just needed to let go, but I was the one preventing myself from doing it,” Doblin says. “I was standing in my own way. And I was hating myself for it. Then I was vomiting and throwing up again.”
“I felt I was being crucified on the cross of self-perfection.”
Finally, after about ten hours, he wore himself out and enjoyed a night of peace, watching the stars through the window. “I was learning this lesson, how totally necessary it is to have this self-critical part of your mind, because that’s the drive to quality,” he says. “But if it’s linked to self-hatred, it’s kind of paralyzing.”
The next day, he was too dizzy to move. Finally, on the third day after his experience, he was able to stand up and accept a ride home.
Three decades later, he says the journey was an essential one to his personal development. “What stayed with me, and why it’s such an important experience, is it made the self-critical part of my mind into an ally instead of an enemy,” Doblin says. “Now I feel like a lot of the successes I have is because of the constant fine-tuning that is no longer so punitive. I hope my ibogaine experience, and this crucified on the cross of self-perfection, has separated out the self-criticism from self-hatred.”
MAPS is currently studying the long-term effects of ibogaine in addiction treatment.
Despite its promise, the substance is strictly banned in the United States, categorized on Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act as a drug of abuse with no medical value.